Baskerville, A Hidden Gem

By, and thanks to, David Towe

Just two weeks after the ARDC Super 70 race meeting at Sydney Motorsport Park to celebrate 70 years of the ARDC, our last round of the full championship for 2022 was held at the brilliant little Baskerville Raceway near Hobart, Tasmania.

Dedication was put to the test for competitors with such a short turn around for those of us who competed at SMP and had to grab whatever bookings we could get on the Spirit of Tasmania for the trek south. Credit should go to all who made the trip but a special mention to Nev Butler, Tony Sawford and Justin Nillson who took their cars and gear across two weeks before the meeting, left them in a secure lock up and flew back to Melbourne before returning on the Thursday of the meeting to pick it all up and get to the track. And in an equally impressive show of dedication we had Craig Marsland extending his eastern states touring and David Patterson, Craig Foster and Peter Woods all down from Brisvegas. Well done lads.

Baskerville was all dressed in its finery for one of its biggest meetings each year, the Baskerville Historics meeting. The place was transformed from the sleepy, country track I’d attended the previous weekend to watch the bike racing and was now full of marquees, trailers, teams and food vendors and the crowd turned up in their droves. I’m not sure of official numbers but, it seemed like there were more people there this time than in 2018.

I had eagerly awaited the return to this great little track since we were there in 2018, a meeting I had done well at, but alas my dreams were to be shattered on the opening lap of qualifying when my engine suddenly started making abnormal sounds and my weekend was over before it had a chance to really get going. There’s nothing to be gained from crying over spilt milk as the old saying goes so I became a very interested (and frustrated) spectator.

The weekend schedule was one of the busiest I’ve ever seen for our category and there was certainly no shortage of track time. Friday had a free practice session in the morning followed by qualifying in the afternoon followed by 6 races over the next two days including a handicap race. A total of 60 laps were scheduled!!

Inside Terry Lawlor’s Falcon

Practice was wet so times were slow. By the afternoon qualifying session, the weather had cleared up and the cream of Group A and C rose to the top with Alford in the Nissan GTR and Lawlor in the Falcon taking pole in their respective classes.  Foster in the Corolla and Butler in the Escort were kings of their under 2L classes with some impressive lap times. Although I was quick in Thursday practice and had chosen to sit out the Friday morning practice my weekend came to a noisy halt at the end of the pit wall on lap one of qualifying with a spun big end bearing.

Saturday morning was cold and the snow on Mount Wellington drew Steve Wilde and me up to the summit for a tourist experience before heading to the track. Onto the racing, where times were still improving as people started to settle in to the tight, twisty layout of the undulating circuit. Lap times from the leaders had improved by 10 secs from their early practice times. It was clear that Alford would again be the man to beat for outright honours. Cutler in the M3 gave it a good crack and although posting very respectable lap times was not able to stay with him. That’s how they finished all five scratch races.

The rest of the positions were shared around as the finishing order became quite mixed with some notable results going to:

  • Craig Foster for 4th in race one
  • Steve Perrot and Tony Sawford 3rd and 4th in race 2
  • Chris La Rosa 3rd in race 3 and Justin Nillson who had finally overcome his oil problems putting in a great performance to finish 4th in the same race
  • Don Dimitradis in the RX7 showing his 9th in race 2 was no fluke and followed it up with 10th in race 3 and a win in the handicap race

And the handicap race threw up some new podium getters in Dimitradis, Patterson and Cole Spender in his Mk1 Escort.

On the Sunday morning I thought I’d pop up to the commentary booth to try out my commentary skills. Move over Crompo is not something anyone will ever say about my performance with the mic. I just about totally lost my composure as Alford took my outright lap record off me with a great lap time of 56.8441 secs. And that’s now a record for Group A that will probably stand for many years to come.

At lunchtime on the Sunday they close the track and open the gates for a grid walk with the featured cars on the grid. Our cars were swamped by the crowd who had packed the hill around the last turn and the other spectating areas taking the opportunity to get up close to our pieces of motorsport history and in many cases reminisce bygone days.

The trophy race results were probably predictable with Alford, Cutler and Perrot on the Group A outright podium. Foster, Nillson and Patterson making up the Group A Under 2L podium.

In Group C outright Lawlor, who’d had a mixed weekend, took the win, Chris La Rosa doing his best Jim Richards from Bathurst 1992 impersonation took second even though his stricken car was parked near pit entry and brought out the red flag for the race. Mark Le Valliant was rewarded for a consistent weekend of results with 3rd. In the Under 2L group C field Nillson brought the Exa Turbo home for the win, Butler, who was so impressive and entertaining right from the start of the meeting, took 2nd and Spender grabbed 3rd in his Escort.

With many of us having to make the mad dash back to Devonport to catch our ride across the water that night, the organisers were brilliant in getting the track closed and our gear out to the trailers for loading including dragging my immobile M3. I’ve done a lot of race meetings in my 23 years of racing and I can honestly say you’d find it hard to find a more friendly, accommodating team than the guys who run this meeting. Nothing is too much trouble for them. I hope we get to race there again and soon.

The Small Fords race – a great close race